Old Kings return to cut Blackhawks' lead in half
For two games in the NHL Western Conference final, the Los Angeles Kings looked nothing like the reigning Stanley Cup champs.
Then the Kings returned home and provided a reminder they're still a force to reckon.
Or at least aren't quite ready to go gently into that good night.
Using the same old, tried-and-true model – a stifling defence with standout netminding and timely goals while grinding down their opponents – the Kings pulled themselves back into the series with a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night.
Chicago still leads the best-of-seven series 2-1.
“We needed this game. we needed this game bad,” Kings defenceman Rob Scuderi said. “I think everyone knows the percentages of trying to win a series once you’re down 3-0.We needed this one.”
The Kings have been road kill away from the Staples Center, but are the NHL's worst hosts, running their home record to 8-0 during this year's playoffs and 15 consecutive games going back to the regular season.
In fact, they've won nine consecutive playoff games in SoCal counting last year's 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils that clinched the first championship in franchise history.
“Everything in our game is being executed much better here at home and we come out with a little more energy. I think we're more aggressive,” said Kings defenceman Robyn Regehr. “Whether that's to do with the home crowd, I'm not sure.
“Maybe we can ask them to follow us on the road.”
The Kings will try to draw even in the series Thursday in La La Land.
With top scorer Mike Richards out of action for a second consecutive game due to a suspected concussion, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter made a bold move to his already juggled lines by elevating Jarret Stoll to the top trio with Justin Williams and Dustin Brown and putting Anze Kopitar on the third line.
It paid immediate dividends when Williams opened the scoring past three minutes into the game before the sellout crowd of 18,477, capping a play he created by stealing the puck deep in the offensive zone.
“Kopi joked he should be up for the Selke because they got him off our line and we score right away,” Brown remarked.
Slava Voynov doubled the lead early in the second period, coming up with a fortunate bounce that only seems to happen to the Kings in Southern California. His stick broke when he took the shot, which caused the puck to elude Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford and trickle into the net.
Voynov, who now holds the Kings record for goals by a defenceman in one playoffs (five), netted his fourth game-winner of the post-season.
Bryan Bickell breathed life into the Blackhawks in the final minute of the second period with a wraparound goal, his seventh of the playoffs, but that was as close as the visitors could make it.
“We knew exactly the kind of game they were going to play and that they were going to have more confidence, more energy in their own building,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “We just didn’t bring that same effort and that same pace.
“We know we have to be better than that in the next one. But even considering that, we still hung in there and had our chance to even it up late in the game.”
Dwight King iced the game with an empty-netter.
The Blackhawks, who managed just three shots on goal in the second period, pushed for the equalizer in the final frame. Chicago couldn't find the mark to the delight of the Kings, whose top players showed much more oomph than they displayed in Games 1 and 2, especially Carter, who netted a pair of helpers.
“He had a lot of jump in his game. He was really good last game, too,” Sutter said. “It probably didn't get noticed much because everyone was talking about Mike. That line was really good.”
Quick had 10 saves in the third period, including a monumental stop on Bickell in the final minutes while the Blackhawks were one shot away from tying the clash.
Crawford stopped 27 shots for the Blackhawks.
On Twitter: @SunRandySportak